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Facing the challenge of keeping children entertained while at home, Long Islanders have turned to free nightly story times — and some are even hosting their own.
Bethpage elementary school teachers and parents have created a rotating weeknight bedtime story effort, featuring readings of children’s books on live video.
“They’re cute little stories — it’s just nice,” says Kramer Elementary School PTA president, Michele Devine of Bethpage. “They’re relaxing, they’re not talking about coronavirus.” Books that have been read so far include “Waiting Is Not Easy!” by Mo Willems and Dr. Seuss’ “If I Ran the Rain Forest” and “One fish two fish red fish blue fish,” among others.
Devine explains the bedtime story effort is meant to temporarily replace the PTA’s Pick A Reading Partner program that was in effect prior to the schools’ shutdown — a national literacy effort that encourages people to read together and involves parents and grandparents reading to classes in person. Since they’re not in school, the effort has moved to Facebook.
GETTING INTO CHARACTER
She adds that instead of having their own parent read to them, “it’s nice to see other parents or someone special since they’re cooped up” with their own parents these days, and she notes that “some of the readers really get into it” and almost do acting jobs while reading the dialogue of characters in the books.
One of the “readers” who takes his bedtime story job quite seriously with accents and all is Mike Corcoran, a physical education teacher at Seaford Harbor Elementary School. He read “Pirate Pete” by Kim Kennedy. He has four daughters: Sarah, 25, Katie, 10, Allie, 8 and Maggie, 6, and says all his girls loved him reading the book to them, so he’s had a lot of practice.
“I think it’s a great idea,” he says of the new effort. “You can promote reading with kids and bring the community together — we want to do anything we can to bring the community together in a time like this.”
Devine’s daughter, Katie, says the bedtime stories help because, “I miss my friends, my school and my teachers.”
The Bethpage parents’ bedtime videos are posted at about 7 p.m. on the PTA’s Facebook page.
BOOKS WITH A MESSAGE
On her own public Facebook page, Roslyne Johnson, a social worker at Oceanside High School, is sharing uplifting story-time videos, too. “Storytime with Mrs. J.” happens from 7 to 7:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Johnson reads two story books to viewers, typically one featuring an African American character and the other with a social theme. The half-hour of reading is as much for the moms as for the children.
“These moms need a break,” Johnson says, and she hopes this will give them a chance to sit down after dinner with a cup of tea while their children watch.
Johnson, 54, who lives in Hempstead, is choosing books that she owns from when her three children were growing up — her youngest is now in college, the oldest is 35. To illustrate her Facebook page where visitors see the story time, she chose a photo of an African American woman blowing the dust off the pages of a book.
“It’s definitely geared toward the African-American children because it’s important for children to see characters who look like them,” Johnson says of the story time.
Reading choices so far have included “We’re Going on a Lion Hunt” by David Axtell, “Leola and the Honeybears” by Melodye Benson Rosales and “Armadillo Tattletale” by Helen Ketterman.
“My granddaughter is 3 years old. She was glued to my phone,” says Nichelle N. Rivers, 48, of East Islip, director of grants for the Roosevelt School District.
Johnson says she is organically growing a group of young viewers. “I asked parents to send me names of their children so I can use their names to greet them and to connect with them," she says. "The children like to hear their names being said.”
Attend “Storytime with Mrs. J” at Facebook.com/Roslynedjohnson.